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The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni (review by Karl)   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 - 04:25 AM
Posted by: kbade

Books

NOTE: If you're here for the usual, just scroll down a tad, but you may enjoy the review. If you came for the review, please visit the home page and make yourself comfy.

This month's Blog Book Club selection was The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni, considered to be widely underappreciated outside of Italy, where it is considered a real masterpiece of Italian literature. It truly is a great historical novel. But since I know that Amber has o­nly good things to say about the book, the contrarian streak I've been o­n compels me to mention the part that bugged me about it.

The Betrothed is largely about the struggle of Renzo and Lucia to get married in the face of a number of terrible obstacles. So the aspect of the book that irritated me (at least at first) was Manzoni's failure to give the reader a little more "backstory" of their romance at the outset. Thus, I did not think I had a good read o­n the inner workings of the characters with whom we are to sympathize until later (and in the case of Lucia, much later) in the book. A fateful encounter between Lucia and Don Rodrigo that sets much of the plot in motion is glossed over in the space of a paragraph. Granted, Lucia's quiet, demure nature may reflect the time in which the story is set, but showing a more private, romantic moment between the couple near the beginning of the book would have made the read a bit less daunting.

This omission irritated me even more when contrasted with Manzoni's treatment of some of the secondary characters. For example, Father Cristoforo and Gertrude (the Signora) get great backstories, which inform the choices they make throughout the narrative. Yet Renzo's motivation in detouring from his mission in Milan did not click for me until he spoke afterward, connecting up to his frustration at finding a conventional solution to the initial obstacle to his marriage.

I do not want this point to overshadow my overall appreciation of the book, though. The personal story is ultimately compelling, as is the depiction of some of the historical events (which I won't spoil here). Plus, Manzoni's eye for the bigger picture has elements of the timeless. Consider, for example, his description of a bread shortage in Milan in the early 17th century:

"But when prices rise more than a certain amount, they always produce a certain effect -- at least they always have done up to the present day. And if it still happens today, after all that learned authors have written about the subject, anyone can imagine what it was like in those days. This effect is a common conviction that it is not in fact the shortage of goods that has caused the high prices. People forget that they have feared and predicted the shortage, and suddenly begin to believe that there is really plenty of grain, and the touble is that it is being kept off the market. Though there are no earthly or heavenly grounds for that belief, it gives food to people's anger and to their hopes. Real or imaginary hoarders of grain, landowners who did not sell their entire crop within twenty-four hours, bakers who bought grain and held it is stock -- everyone in fact who possessed grain or was thought to possess grain was blamed for the shortage and high prices, and made the target of universal complaint and of the hatred of rich and poor alike."

Do a search and replace to substitute "oil" for "grain" and this 19th century author would be smarter than most 21st century pundits.

This is merely a digression in the epic scope of the story, but suggestive of the masterful grasp Manzoni has o­n the human condition. My o­nly quibble is that I wish he had demonstrated it a bit more with regard to the title couple more quickly. So if I was forced to recommend an epic historical novel, my nod would still go to War and Peace. But The Betrothed would not be far behind, which should be a good enough a recommendation for anyone, with the possible exception of Manzoni.

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Advance Smoosh, New Releases, Feelies, Cats In Boxes, Giant Wild Boars   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

SMOOSH: The Chicago Tribune has a lengthy profile of the talented tween sisters, noting the lengths taken to protect their last name and their down-to-earth attitude: "I'm not like, 'Oh yeah, I'm so good and everything.' I never think that," said Chloe o­n the phone while jumping o­n her back yard trampoline. "I don't talk about the band when I'm in school. My friends would get bored at me and think I'm stuck up." Their sophomore album, Free To Stay, comes out later this month, but you can download "Find A Way" from Barsuk Records and stream it with other leaked tracks via the Hype Machine.

NEW RELEASES: The holiday weekend created a bit of a vacuum for new releases. As I write this, AOL Music hasn't even updated its album streams. However, Dave Alvin (Blasters, X, etc.) has an album of covers of California songwriters -- including Merle Haggard, John Fogerty, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Jackson Browne, Jerry Garcia and more -- called West of the West, with Kate Wolf's "Her In California" streaming from MySpace. Mike Patton, vocalist for Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, reportedly redicovers melody o­n Peeping Tom. He performed "Mojo" o­n Late Night with Conan O'Brien last week. The Radio Dept. brings more Swedish shoegazing o­n Pet Grief. Boards of Canada have a new EP out, from which you can stream the ambient "Left Side Drive" via MySpace.

RAY DAVIES: The former Kinks frontman worries Britain is losing its national identity as the country becomes increasingly multi-cultural, describing working with a school in north London where 52 languages were spoken: "I'm not saying people from Croatia or Afghanistan should sing songs by William Blake. I'm not suggesting Morris dancing in the mosque. "But it would be interesting for people to realise we have a culture here too."

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Mocking Music is killing music with a bunch of VU covers -- including tracks from Bowie, Belle & Sebastian, Olivia Tremor Control, Jim O'Rourke and more -- which you can stream from the blog's playlist at the Hype Machine.

MOUNTAIN GOATS have a new album coming in August, titled Get Lonely.

BEN VAUGHN: Folks from the Pate era may remember him as the writer of "I'm Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)," but NPR has an audio feature with extra clips about his TV work and new instrumental album.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: I came across a vintage TV clip of the Feelies playing the title track to their debut album, "Crazy Rhythms." They were even more frantic by the time that Ken King and I started seeing them. And though the band is long since defunct, Glenn Merecer and Dave Weckerman recently rounded up some friends to play Feelies tunes like "All Night Long" and "Morning Light" at an event in Hoboken. Where else?

FASTER THAN THE WORLD: Legendary blogger Michele Catalano returns to the 'net as the co-founder of a blog focused o­n punk rock and muscle cars. There is copious killing of music there as well. So if you've ever wanted to download Dead Milkmen's "Takin' Retards to the Zoo" while comparing the '68 and '69 Dodge Chargers, f.t.t.w. is the place for you!

GNARLS BARKLEY: "Crazy" topped the UK singles chart for a ninth consecutive week, but the first song to top the charts based o­n downloads will no longer be sold o­nline, because the band is fed-up with hearing it.

ORIGINALITY IS OVERRATED: At least, that's the premise of a Top Ten list at Stylus.

PJ HARVEY has reportedly written a new album o­n the piano. Pics of her tickling the keys at the link.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: Page Six claims that the supposedly sober supermodel emerged from her London townhouse a few days ago looking disheveled with an apparently swollen and bruised cheek, after a visit from the troubled singer. Kate's flacks say the photos in the British papers were merely "an unfortunate camera angle" and Doherty had o­nly stopped by to take a shower.

BRADGELINA celebrated the birth of their daughter by donating 300K to help other babies in Namibia. Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt was born in a private hospital, but most Namibians rely o­n state hospitals. The couple also pledged 15K for a school and a community center in Swakopmund.

MATT DAMON and his wife are reportedly expecting a baby girl, to be named Isabella, in the next few weeks.

SANDRA BULLOCK wants to have kids and thinks she was too immature to have them before: "I think most children are harmed because they are born to other children. I am the most immature person I know. No, that's not true -- there's Hugh Grant."

JACKO makes his first round of public appearances since being acquitted of child molestation charges last year... starting with an orphanage.

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND? Director Brett Ratner suggests we haven't seen the last of Wolverine and Magneto. I tend to doubt we've seen the last of them at all.

HUGH JACKMAN put a limit o­n what he was willing to have shaved to fit into his Wolverine costume for X-Men 3.

ANNE HATHAWAY, of The Princess Diaries and Brokeback Mountain, charges 10K an hour... for baby-sitting services at a charity auction: "You have to prove you actually have children, according to my boyfriend," she joked.

BRITNEY SPEARS bought the self-help tome, Getting The Love You Want, during her stay in NYC. Maybe her Mom can read it to her.

HEATHER MILLS McCARTNEY may do a tell-all TV interview with a friendly questioner o­n Britain's ITV.

STEPHEN COLBERT, of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, may have ripped Pres. Bush at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, but admits he voted for (now former) Sen. Strom Thurmond, due to his office's constituent services. All politics is local?

LINDSAY LOHAN may have been offering an olive branch to the French Hotel. Which will do wonders for her efforts to be taken seriously as an actress.

THE SOPRANOS get high praise from Tom Hagen.

PETRA NEMCOVA, the tsunami-surviving supermodel, has fallen under the spell of womanising pop star James Blunt? Her friends are reportedly alarmed... and rightly so! This is the guy who was asked if he ever got sick of hearing "You're Beautiful," and replied: "I don't have to listen to it, I'm the o­ne who sings it. And it's continued to get me laid." An English radio station said it has banned songs by Blunt after listeners said they were fed up with hearing him, but if it bagged you Nemcova, you could probably run it o­n a loop. It's just the rest of the world that has this reaction.

IRAQ: Reserve Marine Maj. Owen West has a must-read for proponents and opponents of the Iraq invasion. Two members of a CBS News team were killed and correspondent Kimberly Dozier was seriously injured when the Army unit in which they were embedded was attacked. Insurgent snipers are trained to target journos. A German hostage in Iraq was freed, but there is no link to Germany releasing a Hezbollah terrorist jailed for life for the murder of a US Navy diver. BTW, I have a bridge for sale, if anyone's interested.

IRAN appears to have slowed its drive to produce nuclear fuel, according to European diplomats who have reviewed reports from inspectors. The diplomats say the slowdown may be part of an Iranian strategy to lower the temperature of its standoff with the West over its nuclear program, and perhaps to create an opening for Washington to join the negotiations directly. We've seen this movie before.

TERROR IN BRITAIN: Home Sec. John Reid claims that 20 “major conspiracies” by Islamist terrorists in Britain have been uncovered by the security services. He failed to give further details but the claim appears to fit in with briefings by MI5 which suggest that as many as 1,200 potential terrorist suspects may now be in the UK.

CATS do seem to have a thing for boxes, don't they?

GATOR AND SHARK ATTACKS are nasty, but deer are more dangerous.

MASSIVE WILD BOARS: Packs of them are marauding through northeast Pennsylvania. "These hogs are smart, especially if they’ve been pursued," state biologist Tom Hardisky said. "They learn what to do and what not to do. When o­ne of their buddies gets killed, they remember it and adapt."

ALPACA: Somehow, I don't think that scene in The Graduate whould have been as powerful with that guy whispering, "Alpaca" to Dustin Hoffman, instead of "Plastics."

GIANT EARTHWORM surfaces in Seattle. Unfortunately, it's not Godzilla or Them! level giant, just giant for an earthworm.

GOLDFISH have feelings too, say fish researchers. Everybody say, "Fish are friends, not food."

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Desmond Dekker, Ted Nugent, Elvis Costello's Essentials, and Chairman Miaow   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, May 29, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

MEMORIAL DAY has become -- in the minds of some -- a day devoted to uncovering their swimming pools and barbeques. So take a moment (preferably at 3 p.m. local time) to remember what it's really about. The Wikipedia entry for Memorial Day notes a race track connection unrelated to the INdy 500 -- and even mentions the Drive-By Truckers. The Castle Argghhh blog brings it home with a four-part piece o­n two military families dealing with the death of Army 2LT Leonard Cowherd o­n May 16, 2004: The Notification; The Funeral; and The Burial, with the final installment to be posted today.

DESMOND DEKKER, best known for "Israelites" -- the first Jamaican reggae hit to cross over internationally -- died May 25th of a heart attack. Hits like "007 (Shanty Town)" and "Tougher Than Tough" made him a key influence o­n the Sex Pistols and the Clash. BONUS: The video for a slower version of "Israelites."

BLOG RADIO debuts tonight o­n Sirius Satellite Radio. Weeknights at 10 Eastern, a blogger will host the new show and showcase his or her favorite music and provide insights into the indie rock music scene. Contributors will include Gorilla Vs Bear, Brooklyn Vegan and Product Shop NYC.

GNARLS BARKLEY made their US TV debut o­n Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Yet another different arrangement of "Crazy," with the entire band in bathrobes. Not as good as the TOTP version, but still pretty cool. Will NBC's lawyers have it yanked from YouTube before you see it?  If so, you can stream the audio from the Hype Machine.

MARY WILSON of the Supremes was set to be released from the hospital o­n Friday following heart surgery. There hasn't been any update o­n the wires, so let's hope no news is good news.

THE TOP 50 CONSERVATIVE SONGS? London's Independent reprints a list that ran in National Review (some of which are debatable, some of which seem more libertarian). Anyway, "Won't Get Fooled Again" topped the list and Pete Townshend has an interesting response.

TED NUGENT: The Independent continues o­n the conservative beat with a profile of the Motor City Madman, with the emphasis o­n madman, natch: "I'm not sure that I've ever met anybody whose opinions and instincts are more directly opposed to my own. And yet, in some odd way, I find Ted Nugent impossible to dislike: I think because I consider him to be a psychotic -- by the classic definition that he does not perceive the world as others do." Yet the writer is also forced "to admit that firing a fully automatic machine gun at a target is fun" and to "a grudging respect for the system by which he governs his land."

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: Okay, my concession to Memorial Day-as-the-start-of-summer is to offer up a repeat of the Pipettes' "Your Kisses Are Wasted o­n Me," which is my current nominee for feel-good hit of the summer (along with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"). Alternatively, you can see 'em play "Kisses" and "Dirty Mind" live o­n Britain's Channel Four. It also affords me a chance to highlight "Your Guitars Are Wasted o­n Me," a remix that's even more old school than the original. And there's even more to stream via the Hype Machine.

TAPES 'N' TAPES briefly talk to Harp about the band's sound and strangest fan experience. You can hear 'em via MySpace.

MARILYN MANSON has a rather odd theory about moustaches.

ELVIS COSTELLO listed his 500 essential albums for Vanity Fair in 2000. I suspect he would pick The Replacements' "best of" now. This link -- and more than a few others over the past year or so -- courtesy of Largehearted Boy.

JOSE GONZALEZ: The singer-songwriter talks to the New Zealand Herald about his shift from hardcore to folk rock and a certain level of success from a commercial.

PETE DOHERTY UPDATE: Canada's Globe and Mail sketches a timeline of the troubled singer's rise to fame and descent to infamy.

BRADGELINA: Jolie and the baby are "fantastic," a source told People magazine. Namibian officials admit they granted Pitt and Jolie the right to ban foreign journalists from entering the country to cover the birth of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. The Namibian Embassy in Pretoria told journalists seeking visas that they must have written permission from the couple. Life & Style Weekly claims that Jennifer Aniston reached out to her ex to congratulate both him and Jolie. Jon Voight, Jolie's estranged father, would like to see his grandkids, but I wouldn't bet o­n that happening. The press looks at the name "Shiloh," which in o­ne longstanding translation from the Bible has come to mean "the peaceful o­ne," but also translates from Hebrew as "His gift."

GWEN STEFANI and GAVIN ROSSDALE are parents, after Stefani gave birth to a baby boy shortly before 1 p.m. o­n Friday. Clearly a name like Kingston James McGregor Rossdale is not silly enough to stop the birth from being completely overshadowed by the Pitt-Jolie birth.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: X Men: The Last Stand grossed 107 million dollars in North America, becoming the fourth biggest debut of all time and the largest Friday box office total ever, according to estimates. The Da Vinci Code drops to second place, with a fall-off severe enough to suggest the movie will not have "legs."

PAUL GLEASON, who played the go-to bad guy in Trading Places and the angry high school principal in The Breakfast Club, has died of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos. He was 67.

TOM HANKS has employed extra bodyguards because he fears The Da Vinci Code could put his family at risk from disgruntled Christian groups. So we can safely predict that Hanks will never appear in a movie that might offend Muslims.

HILARY SWANK and CHAD LOWE are divorcing. The couple separated in January but were reportedly working o­n a reconciliation.

TARA REID: You know you're seen as too much of a party girl when Budweiser doesn't want you around.

BRITNEY SPEARS has reportedly banished Spenderline to the basement of their Californian mansion.

JUDE LAW and SIENNA MILLER spotted getting cuddly again at a Hollywood hot spot o­n May 22nd.

NETFLIX plans o­n offering flicks by net by year's end.

THE LOWRIDER: All my friends know it, but here's a history for other vistors.

EMMY ROSSUM (how's the career? ouch!) says the school she and Gwyneth Paltrow attended was full of Mean Girls.

KATE MOSS is kung fu fighting the paparazzi. The supposedly sober supermodel does not like having her picture snapped unless she's being paid handsomely.

IRAQ: Military investigators believe that Marines wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha. Some will probably charged with murder and if the charges are proven (which doesn't always happen), they will deserve the maximum punishment the facts support. Horrible, tragic crimes do happen in war. Americans willl recall the My Lai massacre, which killed hundreds, but there is also the disputed No Gun Ri incident during the Korean War and the Dachau massacre at the end of WWII, to name two. And it's not just US troops -- the Brits tortured and starved prisoners after WWII, Belgian soldiers apparently roasted a small Somali boy over an open fire and Canadians tortured a teenager to death o­n a UN peacekeeping mission, and so o­n. I mention this not to minimize the charges apparently coming out of Haditha, but to note that they are not an indictment of a war or the troops in general. The US and its military are horrified by such reports and believe that, if proven, those responsible should be harshly punished. In contrast, for the jihadis, insurgents and militias, murdering civilians is standard operating procedure. This is why, in the town of Tarmiyah -- o­nce a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency -- even those who dislike the occupation like the security and protection the US affords against nearby Shiite militias.

IRAQ IN THE MEDIA: CNN ran a story claiming that Iraq's foreign minister said there was no need that the international community ask Iran to guarantee it will not build a nuclear bomb. At ITM, Omar reports he said the exact opposite and provides the audio in Arabic. With the aforementioned charges likely coing out of Haditha, it's also worth mentioning that the media will make us quite familiar with the names of those charged with the most serious crimes, but -- as I've noted before -- rarely seems to have much time or space to give to reports o­n our heroic US troops.

IRAN: Pres. Ahmadinejad told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine that "the German people are prisoners of the Holocaust" -- though he still doubts the Holocaust happened. Either way, he believes Jews in Israel should be returned to Europe. He also claims the "international Zionist web" was trying to keep him from visiting Germany for the World Cup soccer match. And states that Europe should "side with Iran" o­n nuclear policy or "suffer the consequences."

JOSE PADILLA: Federal investigators say they have evidence that the former Chicago street gang member had had risen high in Al Qaeda's ranks, having personal relationships with the top planners of the September 11th attacks o­n New York City and Washington, D.C.

DUCK EATS SPACE ALIEN: That, at least, is the conclusion reached by workers at the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia, CA when they viewed an X-ray image they took of a sick mallard.

CHAIRMAN MIAOW stowed away o­n a container ship from China to Britain, living o­n cardboard and condensation.

A PYTHON misplaced in a rental car surprised the next costomer a little.

A BEAR causes teen's first car accident.

A LOVESICK SWAN has fallen for a plastic swan-shaped paddle boat o­n a pond in the German town of Muenster.

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It's A GIRL! Name to be explained later?   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Sunday, May 28, 2006 - 06:46 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

The night of May 27, 2006 in Namibia, Africa, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt welcomed their daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. No further information or photos are being given.

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David Byrne, The Shins, Crooked Fingers, X-Men, When Bambi Attacks   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Friday, May 26, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

THE WEEKEND STARTS HERE:

FLAMING LIPS frontman Wayne Coyne gave the commencement address for the Oklahoma high school from which he did not graduate. It's very... Wayne. YouTube has Parts One and Two.

FRIDAY TIMEWASTER: Warp Forest.

THE WALKMEN played DC last night, which means the gig should be streaming from NPR by now.

DAVID BYRNE has posted an essay o­n music and packaging, including album covers, videos and today's o­nline graphics: "We presume these connections — author to package — with cultural products in ways we don’t with other stuff. No o­ne stares enraptured at a Downy bottle while doing the laundry or at a Progresso can while opening a can of soup — there is no 'author' behind these packages."

THE SHINS: YANP has a new song that may not change your life, but which is streaming via the Hype Machine.

OLD FASHIONED PR: In London's Guardian, Adam Webb argues that while Arctic Monkeys and Gnarls Barkley show how the Internet is shaking the music biz, there's still something to be said for the traditional machinery.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: I'm in a bit of a John Hughes mood, so I dug up General Public's video for "Tenderness."

SMOOSH: The tween sisters, currently opening for the Eels, tell the L.A. Times that a summer tour is great because there's no homework.

HALLELUJAH: At My Old Kentucky Blog Dodge's reign of compilation turns to Leonard Cohen. You can stream at least 33 versions of the song via the Hype Machine.

JACK WHITE lends support to Jon Pratt's favored saying that you can't be a prophet in your hometown by moving from Motown to Nashville due to the negativity of Detroit Rock City.

CROOKED FINGERS: At Chromewaves, Frank hooks you up with plenty o­n Eric Bachmann's post-Archers of Loaf, Americana-ish outfit. You can stream the legit MP3s Frank found, plus stuff like the band's cover of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man," which is o­ne of my fave CF tracks and o­ne fans of The Service should check out. There are more legit downloads at the band's website -- just click o­n "Music," then "MP3s."

IMOGEN HEAP: The British singer-songwriter tells Hour that blogging helped her complete her album. You can hear her at MySpace.

BRITNEY SPEARS: Even at the unveiling of the poptart's wax figure at Madame Tussauds, fans protest Spenderline. OK! is supposedly claiming that she's having an affair with her producer. And she posted some bad poetry o­n her web site that some thought was directed at Spenderline, though it's now marked as directed against those who think they know her, along with a pic of her and her pals flipping off the viewer. She's a classy gal.

NOW SHOWING: The holiday weekend's sole wide release is X-Men: The Last Stand, which is currently scoring 56 percent Rotten overall, but 61 percent Fresh with the "cream of the crop" critics o­n the Tomatometer. The big question for X-Fans is, "How badly can Brett Ratner mess up after taking over the franchise from Bryan Singer?" Having sacrificed some sleep to see it, just for you, I'm happy too report that he didn't mess it up too much, especially in light of the bad buzz coming off the set during shooting.  However, the amount of good stuff in the movie frustrated me, knowing how much better it could have been in more capable hands.  There were plenty of surprises -- and shocks -- in the flick (don't take sensitive kids), which I won't spoil here.  But there were some scenes -- including a pivotal o­ne where Logan gets to play hero instead of anti-hero that should have been edited.  The cinematography and production design also left much to be desired.  Fortunately, the main cast knows its business well enough from the first two installments to make up for most of the defects in this o­ne.  I'm just thankful we didn't have to see director Brett Ratner in the Wolverine costume... *shiver*

CATE BLANCHETT is set to play Bob Dylan in an upcoming biopic. No, really.

KATE MOSS UPDATE: New boyfriend Russell Brand was snapped doing the walk of shame from the supposedly sober supermodel's flat. Turns out he's her back door man. Meanwhile, Kate was making a sharp exit out the front – looking rather more dishevelled than usual.

DENISE & HEATHER & RICHIE & CHARLIE: Lloyd Grove of the NYDN doesn't believe Charlie Sheen was hooking up with a tranny, but is not above mentioning that a jailed pimp is making that claim.

JESSICA SIMPSON is at war with Sister Ashlee and lonely without future ex Nick Lachey, while he's been spotted with pop singer Natasha Bedingfield.

TOM-KAT UPDATE: Cruise denies rumors that Holmes has post-partum depression. He's looking to build his dream family home overlooking California's San Fernando Valley after secretly acquiring a ten million dollar plot from the Church of Scientology.

GEORGE LUCAS: Just when you think he's going to do the right thing by releasing the original versions of the first three Star Wars movies o­n DVD, we learn that they will be copied from the laserdiscs of the films released in the mid'90s, formatted for the conventional TV screen and not wide-screen "letterbox" versions.

JACKO: Just when you thought it was safe... Neverland II!

MARIE OSMOND should watch her daughters' net usage a little bit more closely.

JAMES GANDOLFINI, not unlike his alter ego Tony Soprano, want to go to Iraq to whack some people: "I'd go, I'm too old and fat, but I'd drive a truck. The American people haven't had to sacrifice anything."

BRADGELINA: The Namibian Governor denies earlier gossip that he would be naming the couple's baby.

CHRISTINA AGUILERA has been trying to class up her image lately, so it's a little puzzling that she will be playing notorious burlesque stripper Tempest Storm in a Hollywood biopic.

PULP FICTION: Slate has a gallery of classic books re-styled as trashy thrillers.

IRAQ: The rumored troop reduction announcement did not materialize from the Bush-Blair summit. At ITM, Mohammed has a slice of chaotic Baghdad life, revolving around the generators that help his neighborhood when the regular power dies. Omar posts o­n freedom of religion for the northern Kurds and reports that insurgent groups are abandoning the Internet and phones and going back to word of mouth and written letters, because electronic communication is killing them. Jeffrey Cozzens looks at the state of the bin Laden-Zarqawi relationship.

IRAN is prompting its neighbors to gird for war: "According to British sources, the stock of weapons, missiles and combat planes in the six neighboring countries to Iran is now three times what it was at the o­nset of the Iraq war in 2003."

WHEN BAMBI ATTACKS: The resurgence of deer attacks at Southern Illinois University have spawned the inevitable lawsuit.

BADGER was found sleeping under a man's bed in Tonsberg, Norway. I'm sure his wife has no idea how it got there.

RAT risks its life to strike a blow against the cultural hegemony of American Idol.

HARRIET THE HARE is the latest victim in a string of carousel animal thefts.

WHICH CAME FIRST? The chicken or the egg? Answer at the link.

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